Monday, April 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Kevin Kiermaier returns to his Gold standard with HR-robbing catch

CLEVELAND — After a brutal performance during the most recent homestand, Kevin Kiermaier showed dramatically that he's back to his old gold form in centerfield Wednesday with a home-run robbing catch for the final out of the 7-4 win.

"Those defensive miscues, I had no explanation for them," Kiermaier said. "I told all my teammates, I said, 'No excuses, it's not going to happen again. I'm going to get back to doing my normal things out there.'

"And hopefully (Wednesday) was a testament of that."

Kiermaier said the "degree of difficulty" wasn't quite as extreme as the similar catch he made Aug. 31, 2015 in Baltimore, but he was still pretty proud of his handiwork, leaping at the base of the 9-foot-high wall to rob the Indians' Jason Kipnis.

"I chose to jump and thankfully caught the ball at the highest point," he said. "It was literally the perfect opportunity to make that catch, and I made it happen. It felt good to close out the game like that."

Manager Kevin Cash said none of the Rays lost confidence that Kiermaier would be back to his elite form. Kiermaier, who also has been hitting better, said he's just glad to show it.

"Baseball for whatever reason, goes through waves, and I was on the sandy bottom in the Kansas City series," he said. "But I feel good again, so I'm not worried about that stuff."

RAYS WIN: Rays beat Indians to open eyes with another series win.

More to the Corey story?

With his ninth homer and another hit, Corey Dickerson continues to build an impressive case for selection — since it's hard for any Rays to win election — to the American League All-Star team. Dickerson not only leads all DHs on the ballot, but he ranks among the overall AL leaders in hits (53), average (.335), multihit games (18), extra-base hits (23), total bases (96), doubles (12) and slugging percentage (.608). Plus he has a .382 on-base percentage.

A mid-July trip to Miami would make for a nice reward, Dickerson said.

"That's always a goal to be considered as one of the best players, or to be considered for your performance is pretty unique," Dickerson said. "You work hard, this game is really hard. It's humbling. So whenever you think about that, that's always a goal of a player to be an All-Star and to help a team win.

"I don't think about it because it's still like a dream. It's something that's never happened to me, so it's something I can't think about or fathom or worry about right now."

Starting excites Ramirez

RHP Erasmo Ramirez welcomes the chance to go back into the rotation in place of demoted LHP Blake Snell, starting Friday versus the Yankees. "I'm excited to be back and do my best because you never know what's going to happen, how many starts they are going to give me or what ideas they've got," he said. In 29 starts for the Rays, Ramirez is 13-6, 3.33, and in the 21 games when he gets at least two runs of support, he is 13-1, 2.86. Given that Ramirez hasn't thrown more than two innings or 28 pitches since April 26, his workload will be limited Friday as the Rays build him back up from relief work. Ramirez said the new role isn't that much different outside of getting back into a five-day routine: "It's like being a long reliever, but starting the game." Snell, is slated to make his first start for Triple-A Durham on Friday.

TOPKIN'S TAKEAWAYS: Beat writer Marc Topkin's takeaways from Wednesday's Rays-Indians game.

Not-so-surprising amazing stat of the day

The Rays on Tuesday became the third team in major-league history to hit at least five homers and strike out at least 16 times in a nine-inning game. The other two? The Rangers earlier this month, 5 and 16 vs. Houston, and — not surprisingly — the Rays in April 2016, with 5 and 16 against the Yankees.

Numbers of the day

35 of 36 Games in days Rays played before today's off day, with another 13 straight starting Friday.

Medical matters

The Rays don't know yet how long 2B Brad Miller will be sidelined based on the lower-abdomen soreness that knocked him out of Tuesday's lineup and kept him on the bench Wednesday. Manager Kevin Cash said Miller was to see a doctor either late Wednesday or during today's off-day, with the hope he doesn't have to go on the disabled list. "There's concern, but we don't know yet," Cash said. "Hopefully he's a quick healer and three days works." … Cash said they are optimistic that SS Matt Duffy (heel) will resume his rehab assignment shortly after being re-evaluated Friday by head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield. Duffy has not played since experiencing soreness Tuesday. … RHP Tommy Hunter (calf strain) said Wednesday's bullpen session, his third, went well, and he is likely to throw live batting practice this weekend.

Sternberg sometimes wonders, 'Can this actually work here?'

Head Ray Stuart Sternberg said at the MLB owners meeting in New York there continues to be progress toward a new stadium, but the low attendance thus far this season doesn't show well for the Tampa Bay market.

"Seeing the numbers at the gate this year again (isn't) helping the cause with people at MLB and everywhere else," he told mlb.com.

"Is it a viable market? There's no bigger supporter of it than I am, but even I have days or weeks I get up and go, 'Can this actually work here?' But I'm forging forward, and I think it will."

Miscellany

. With 3B Evan Longoria whiffing for the last out of the ninth inning, the Rays struck out 10 times, making it a team-record six straight games in double digits and 29 total out of 43 games. Overall, the Rays have a majors-most 451 strikeouts.

. Indians manager Terry Francona, continuing to harass his good buddy, called Rays manager Kevin Cash during his post-game interviews to jokingly ask if he told Steven Souza Jr. to bunt with two outs and two on in the fourth. Cash joked back that he couldn't talk because he was busy telling the writer how they kicked the Indians tail.

. Statcast's measurement of Corey Dickerson's home run Tuesday at only 449 feet drew several scoffs from the Rays given it hit the tall trees beyond the centerfield fence in Cleveland. ESPN's Home Run Tracker was a bit more generous, reporting a "true distance" of 453, matching the longest of his career by its measuring.

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